It's been said that there are two types of computer users: those who have lost data because of a power problem, and those who are going to. Power failure and power surges are responsible for almost half of all data loss occurrences. Fortunately, it is relatively simple and inexpensive to protect against power problems. This blog will be a guide to choosing the best power protection for your business.
Our computers need steady, "clean" power - power that does not sag, spike, or blackout. So how do we protect our computers and data from power problems? Since we don’t have unlimited budgets, we must design a system that gives us the maximum protection that we can afford. We must inventory our systems, and decide which ones need which level of protection.
Understanding Power Protection Equipment
There are three basic levels of power protection equipment commonly used today. Understanding the differences will help you decide which level is appropriate for each piece of equipment you want to protect.
The most basic protection begins with combating surges and spikes. Surge protectors are inexpensive devices that filter electrical power to eliminate surges and spikes before they get to your equipment.
When purchasing a surge protector, the lower the let-through voltage, the better your equipment will be protected. It is also wise to purchase a surge protector that has a warranty that not only covers the surge protection device, but the equipment that it is protecting.
Note: Many surge protectors do not provide surge protection on every outlet they contain. Be sure to verify that each outlet you plug electronic equipment into is surge-protected.
The next level of protection involves purchasing an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). UPS prices start at under $100 for very simple devices that provide protection for a laptop computer, to tens of thousands for large server rooms. For a small network server room, expect to pay between several hundred to a few thousand dollars for a UPS. A UPS provides battery backup that aids in saving data by keeping computer systems running with no interruption in the event of a blackout or over voltage. UPS’s also offer protection from surges, spikes, and sags.
When the power goes out, a UPS provides anywhere from a few minutes to several hours of power to keep your computers running. An important additional benefit of a UPS is that many also are equipped with a special software that senses a blackout, and safely shuts down any computers connected to them, writing unsaved data to disk, and issuing shutdown commands to the operating system.
Note: If you are connecting multiple computers to a UPS, verify that it has the capability to safely shut down more than one computer.
A step up from Uninterruptible Power Supplies is Emergency Power Generation Equipment (EPGE). Such equipment is usually powered by Gasoline or Diesel fuel, and can provide power for extended periods. In a small installation, a portable generator is placed outside your business, and extension cords are run from the generator to critical equipment and portable lights. For more complex environments, or permanent installations, the generator is permanently mounted, and connected to the main power supply of the building.
There are four choices to make when selecting power protection:
Does this equipment need power protection?
Since surge protectors are so inexpensive, and provide protection against power surges. We recommend that all electronic equipment be plugged into surge protectors.
Does this equipment need uninterrupted power?
If the equipment is critical to the operation of your business, or requires several minutes to safely shut down, it should be connected to an uninterruptible power supply. For example network servers are constantly writing data to their hard disks. If power were lost during a data write, the data in memory would be lost. Additionally, servers need several minutes to safely shut down. We recommend that all servers be connected to uninterruptible power supplies. Note that uninterruptible power supplies typically have surge-protected outlets.
How long do I want my equipment to be able to run in case of a blackout?
The total wattage used by the equipment you want to keep running in case of a blackout, times the length of time you need your equipment to run will determine whether you should implement uninterruptible power supplies or emergency power generation equipment. Many UPS's are sized to allow computers attached to them to run for 10-25 minutes. This is sufficient time for users to logoff their computers, write unsaved data to disk, and perform an orderly shutdown of the operating system.
For most small businesses, the cost of emergency power generation equipment is prohibitive, costing several thousand dollars or more. Most businesses choose to implement uninterruptible power supplies (UPS).
Do I need software that will automatically shut down my computer and save my files in the event of a blackout?
Many UPS’s have software that will automatically sense a power outage and perform an orderly shutdown of a computer connected to it.
We strongly recommend automatic shutdown software for all network servers.
Deciding Which Equipment to Protect
Below is a chart to assist with determining your power protection needs. Please bear in mind that every business is unique, and these recommendations are general guidelines only. We would be happy to assist you in determining your particular needs.
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